DismalDismal by name but one would hope not by nature. Luckily we can cut any such cliché out of the review straight off as this Italian combo are far from that. This has been a bit of a step back from the metal side of things for me of late as it is miles away and on the atmospheric side of what we do with the extremity being replaced by a much more mellow vibe. We are given little information apart from the fact that the album’s concept is to project a “waltz of the mind” and that it does so in part by projecting gothic fairy atmospheres. A quick root around shows me that the project has been about since 1996 and that this is their fourth album.

It takes a while to get into the swing of things and gain entrance to the magic circle as the neo-classical and somewhat dismal piano melody of opener ‘The Four Vibrations’ slowly begins to ease in and enchant. There is a feel of sorrow and sadness here and I guess that is what the group’s name is trying to project. Apart from adding strings to the equation and building up this opener does not give much away until finally the dulcet and very fairy enthused vocal tones of singer Rossana Landi enter the equation. Now I am really enchanted. The ticking of what I imagine is a grandfather clock and subtle chiming sounds take us into things further as things expand into the title-track which despite its Italian title has vocals in English. We are in a dreamy gothic place but the vocals have a lot of power behind them and waft melodiously over the top of strange sound effects and what sounds like the words ‘tick-tock’ repeated lower in the mix in time with the beat. They have quickly evoked a rich atmosphere and one that without actually listening to is quite hard to describe. The complexity of doing so is not made any easier as the vocals are chameleonic as they constantly change in tone, flux and language taking in French, German and Italian too.

At first I was totally perplexed by ‘Ill Ballo Degli Obesi’ as it sounds like it could have escaped from a cabaret scene in a Pedro Almodovar film and is full of sassy character before some maudlin strings and Enya sounding vocals come in. There is certainly plenty going on here and it is all quite unique as it seems to draw inspiration from a myriad of places taking in everything through the ages from classical to electronic in the process.  There’s a strong sense of flamboyance and the theatrical and the music and ever changing vocals have lots of drama in them but never more so than on the dramatic peak of ‘Microcosm and Macrocosm’ where everything builds to a giddy crescendo with the vocals really hitting the rafters. By comparison ‘Eden’ brings back in soothing piano with gentle strings in the background and then orchestral pomp and swaggers as it moves into what sounds like the circus breezing into town, the horns certainly have me thinking of trumping elephants that’s for sure. Melisse (Part 2) has sounds that are like glittering fairy dust being sprinkled and some spellbinding French vocals that really draw you in. There’s backing male vocals and this unfolds a bit like a stage play or at times maybe a pantomime. It’s a decadent and richly intriguing number and like most of the album quite unique and remarkable with it.

I really enjoyed my first encounter with Dismal, I do admit I had to take my time with the album and would not have been able to rush a review here in the slightest. If you are looking to be transported into a magical place this is one waltz well worth stepping out to.

(7.5/10 Pete Woods)